Jonathan's Reviews > The Sun Also Rises

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
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Oct 03, 09

bookshelves: fiction, hemingway, usa-literature
Read in October, 2009

This book was about the "lost generation" and so it was.

At the beginning of the book Hemingway quotes Gertrude Stein and Ecclesiastes 1.4-7 in reference to generations of men coming and going, the last as similar to the first. If Hemingway had not made it explicitly clear at the beginning of the book where he was going to lead the reader then I perhaps would not have finished the book (that is a hyperbolic statement, I would still have finished the book).

And so, as Kurt Vonnegut so charmingly put it, it goes. Dull, drivelling wine, swinish smorgasbords, prissy pimps, incorigible drunkards, indolent braggards, and one beautifully beautiful and impotent woman.

"Wonderful darling, that's wonderful. Do go on."
"Yes, so I will."

But Hemingway knows how to bring his writing to denouement. He knows implicitly. He feels it and makes the reader feel it. The whole book can bore you to hell (yes, hell, boredom is not heavenly) and yet he rides in on his horse at the last moment and kills the bad guys and saves the day. How does he do it? With flare, certainly.

Well, anyway, Hemingway's descriptions are powerful, even if few (fishing in the creek, the bull-fighting, and swimming in the ocean). And the dialogue is awesome.

And yes, as one reviewer has said, you will be drunk after reading this book. Wine, wine, wine, and more wine.

But for all this bally-hoo, Hemingway really is quite serious. He committed suicide after all, which is tragic for him and for us. No man is an island, correct? It surprises me, but then again it really does not surprise me, that so few seem to catch on to Hemingway's apparent obsession with God. Granted I've only read three of his books, nevertheless he references God so rarely, mainly in cursing, that one might wonder why one would think God was important to Hemingway? Personal bias? Perhaps. I've not read any biographies on Hemingway, so I can only infer from his fiction.

I'll give one example from the end of the book. (Let me note here that I think Jake, perhaps Brett too, would have subscribed to the declaration: "In vino veritas.")

"It's sort of what we have instead of God." - Brett
"Some people have God," I said. "Quite a lot." - Jake
"He never worked very well with me." - Brett
"Should we have another Martini?" - Jake

To be honest I've not quite figured out what the "It's" is (read the larger context). Was she talking about the martini? The bar? The feeling good? I don't know. But this does, I think, manifest Hemingway's concerns about God (does God exist, should I live for God, should I reject God, and etc.).

The fact that Hemingway quotes Ecclesiastes at the beginning of the book does not hurt my case either. And therefore let me also end this summary with Ecclesiastes' summation of life:

The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgement, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.


BTW, please do not get the wrong impression, this is not salvation by the works of man. We cannot keep the commandments apart from Christ, which is why He alone is the justification of believers and the reason for hope.
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